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Lockheed Martin Has Crazy-Fast Quantum Computers And Plans on Actually Using Them

The defense contractor will be the first company to use quantum computers on a commercial scale

Close up of a processor for a D-Wave quantum computer. Photo: D-Wave Systems Inc.

Lockheed Martin, a U.S. aerospace and defense company (and all-around inventor-of-the-future) will be the first company in the world to wrangle quantum computing out of the realm of research and into commercial scale usage, says The New York Times.

Starting from an early quantum computer built by Canadian firm D-Wave that the defense contractor bought a few years ago, Lockheed Martin will ramp up the technology to become “the first company to use quantum computing as part of its business,” says the Times.

Quantum computers are a fledgling, finicky technology that should be able to crunch through complex mathematical equations “millions of times faster” than today’s computers.

Ray Johnson, Lockheed’s chief technical officer, said his company would use the quantum computer to create and test complex radar, space and aircraft systems. It could be possible, for example, to tell instantly how the millions of lines of software running a network of satellites would react to a solar burst or a pulse from a nuclear explosion — something that can now take weeks, if ever, to determine.

Whether Lockheed Martin’s venture pans out, the move heralds an ongoing shift in the quantum computing world. Just a few days ago, the founders of BlackBerry announced that they are opening up a $100 million research facility focusing on quantum computing.

The Times says that the large-scale application of quantum computers could bring the digit-crunching prowess of the technology to bear on a huge number of important problems:

Cancer researchers see a potential to move rapidly through vast amounts of genetic data. The technology could also be used to determine the behavior of proteins in the human genome, a bigger and tougher problem than sequencing the genome. Researchers at Google have worked with D-Wave on using quantum computers to recognize cars and landmarks, a critical step in managing self-driving vehicles.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Quantum Computing Now At Least Vaguely Plausible

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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